AS more and more United States companies have had to lay off
employees as a result of the poor economy, they have also been
faced with an increasing number of incidents of industrial
"An unhappy or disgruntled or greedy employee ... plays an
important role in getting information out of a company," says
Richard Heffernan, a Connecticut-based security consultant. "You
cannot get that much information out of a company without having
some inside help.
"Employees may attempt to hurt their employers before being laid
off or to enhance their future employment prospects by
misappropriating proprietary information," he says.
About 58 percent of all incidents of industrial espionage were
undertaken by current or former employees, Mr. Heffernan discovered
in a survey he conducted last year with Dan Swartwood, a
Washington-based security consultant. The survey, sponsored by the
American Society for Industrial Security, was based on the
responses of 246 US companies.
Since 1985, the number of incidents of industrial espionage
reported on a monthly basis has increased 260 percent, or a
combined average of 10 incidents per month, the study showed.
William Johnson, executive director of Business Espionage
Controls and Countermeasures (BECCA), a nonprofit organization in
Seattle, adds three reasons for the rise in the number of espionage
* With much more rapid product development and tougher
international business competition, information is more important
than it used to be.
* More people have easy access to "spy-tech electronics" -
high-tech catalogs and retail stores that sell pocket copy
machines, bugs, tiny TV cameras, phone taps, and microphones.
* Lower ethical expectations. In many companies, technical
innovation is moving faster than ethical guidelines.
Peter Schweizer, author of "Friendly Spies: How America's Allies
Are Using Economic Espionage to Steal Our Secrets," estimates that
intellectual property theft costs US companies $100 billion
annually. The Federal Bureau of Investigation cites an estimate of
"Attempts to misappropriate information are really quite large,"
Heffernan says. "It's an underestimated problem."
In his study, Heffernan found that 49 percent of the companies
surveyed reported incidents of industrial espionage. Overall,
companies reported 589 attempts of targeting US technology, trade
secrets, and business plans. …